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2006 Team Report: Indianapolis Colts

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Quarterbacks

Starter: Peyton Manning
Backup(s): Jim Sorgi, Shaun King

Starting QB: Peyton Manning fell back to earth in 2005, throwing 21 less touchdowns from prior year, but still ranking 2nd in passing touchdowns. He threw for 3,747 yards, 28 touchdowns, with 10 interceptions, earning his 6th straight Pro-Bowl appearance. After hitting the mark for 6 straight seasons, Manning failed to throw for over 4,000 yards, he did however continue his streak of over 25 TDs to a seventh season. Manning has been in the top 4 (4th, 3rd, 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd) of QB fantasy points for the last 7 years running. Barring injury, it is impossible to believe that he will fall out of the top 4 for many years to come. Manning is the leagues best pocket passer, and field generals the most productive offense in the game. The Colts also boast one of the best offensive lines in football. Most importantly, Manning has never lost time to injury.

Backup QB: Jim Sorgi was the Colts' sixth-round draft pick in 2004. He did nothing more than kneel down the last series in three games in the heart of the season. In the inconsequential final regular-season games against Seattle and Arizona, he played extensive time after Manning started. The Colts split the games winning against Arizona, while losing to Seattle, but Sorgi passed for 454 yards and three touchdowns. Sorgi injured his throwing shoulder in the Colts' second preseason game this year, and it is unclear how much time he will miss. Veteran quarterback Shaun King would likely replace Sorgi as Manning's backup if Sorgi misses an extended amount of time.

Running Backs

Starter: Dominic Rhodes, Joseph Addai
Backup(s): Kory Chapman, Tony Hollings
Fullback(s): James Mungro

Starting RB: Playing behind Edgerrin James, Dominic Rhodes had a small amount of success early in the season. Starting at week 10, Rhodes played in 4 games, carrying the ball 13 times for seven yards, and finished the season with an abysmal 3 yards a carry. He did add in the passing game, with 72 receiving yards in the final three games. This lack of production certainly prompted the Colts to select rookie Joseph Addai in the draft. Despite great natural ability, Addai was never able to lay sole claim to the starting role in College. He will compete with Dominic Rhodes, and although not the heir apparent, could develop into the starting RB on a high powered offense. Addai is very well suited for the passing game. The Colts have gone on record as saying that this should be seen as a RBBC, where both players will fill the huge shoes left by James.

Backup RBs: Should either Dominic Rhodes or Joseph Addai emerge as the sole starter, the other will be the primary backup. However it shakes out, barring injury, there is little chance that Kory Champman, who played in 3 games last year while putting up no offensive number of any kind, will be a factor in the offense. At best Champman is the fourth running back on the roster behind Fullback James Mungro who would also start at tailback in front of him. Tony Hollings has been a disappointment but his experience from his time with the Texans could give him an edge.

Fullback: James Mungro entered the league in 2002, putting up eight touchdowns as a goal line back. He rushed for 114 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns against an Eagle defense as the starter for the Colts. Although he has ability, Mungro has been regulated to the Fullback role over the past few years. In 2005 he rushed seven times for 15 yards while catching 3 passes. Outside of a rash of injuries that might force Mungro back into a starting role, no offensive stats should be counted on.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne
Backups: Brandon Stokley, Aaron Moorehead, Gerran Walker, Brian Hare, Jamie Goodwin

Starting WRs: Harrison made his 7th straight Pro-Bowl appearance, coming off of a 1,146 yard, 12 TD season in 2005. It was also his 7th straight season with at least 1,100 receiving yards and double digit TDs. After ranking in the top 5 of fantasy points for a WR for the last 6 years running, Harrison dropped to 8th as the entire Colts offense was down. Reggie Wayne finally produced to his first round draft position in 2004, as the 8th highest fantasy scoring WR in the league. Unfortunately while breaking the 1,000 yard mark for the second straight season, he dropped down to five touchdowns in 2005, finishing as the 21st ranked fantasy scoring WR. Manning has said repeated for years that Wayne is one of his favorite players on the team.

Backup WRs: In 2004, Brandon Stokley emerged as perhaps the NFL's best slot receiver and definitely a match up nightmare as he was fearless over the middle with the speed to do damage down the seam. Opposing teams found ways to eliminate that match up in 2005, removing Stokley as a threat. He finished with just 543 yards and a touchdown. Starting against Seattle he put up 122 yards, and can still be a valuable weapon to the Coltís attack. Barring injury, none of the rest of the backups on the team matter to the Colts offensive jugernaught. Aaron Moorehead is an interesting player to keep an eye on. Coming to the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2003, Moorehead made the team and shined in extremely limited duty in 2003. He had five receptions with 59 yards in the regular season finale against Arizona. Moorhead has size, speed, and is fearless over the middle.

Tight Ends

Starters: Dallas Clark
Backups: Ben Utecht, Bryan Fletcher, Ben Hartsock, Corey Roberts

Dallas Clark has great speed for a TE, is very athletic with soft hands, and will make the tough catches over the middle. He has Star ability, as witnessed against Cincinnati in 2005, putting up 6 catches for 125 yards and a TD. Clark as crossed the 100 yard receiving mark four times in three seasons. In 15 games, and slowed by injuries and a concussion all season, Clark finished as the 13th fantasy scoring TE last season. However, Clark has not proven to be able to stay healthy. He broke his leg in 2003 and missed the second half of the season. In the 2004 season, Clark lost time for a strained calf muscle, a biceps strain, and a concussion, with almost the exact same set of injuries in 2005. This injury history cannot be discounted; you should almost expect that he will lose at least a game or two nursing some form of injury. Bryan Fletcher was a definite factor in over half of the Colts games in 2005. Ben Utecht started two games last year when Clark was unavailable, and appears to have worked his way past Bryan Fletcher on the depth chart this preseason. He could be a valuable fantasy player should Clark go down for an extended period of time. Ben Hartsock is an exceptional blocker both on the line where he gets good leverage and on the move leading a runner. Although undeveloped, he has all the tools to be an outstanding underneath receiver.

Place Kicker

Adam Vinatieri : The biggest free agent kicker change this year is Vinatieriís move from the Patriots to the rival Colts. Although heís best known for several of his game winning kicks in the NFL playoffs, playing for Indianapolis in the dome could boost his regular season numbers (and thus his fantasy value). His career FG percentage kicking indoors is 90.7%. With New England this decade, Vinatieri averaged 114.8 points per season. During that same period, the Colts averaged 125.2 kicking points per year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: T.J. Rushing; Dominic Rhodes; James Mungro; Joseph Addai; Ashlan Davis; Terrence Wilkins; Gerran Walker

Seventh round draft pick CB T.J. Rushing returned both kickoffs (26.7 avg., 20th) and punts (9.1 avg.) for Stanford last year. He took two kickoffs the distance for TDs last year, and three as a junior. In 2005 RB Dominic Rhodes led the Colts in kickoffs for the second straight year. His numbers (41 returns, 20.9 avg.) were down from the previous year however and he didnít score, so his fantasy return ranking dropped from 10th to 30th. If Rhodesí rushing work increases this year, his role on special teams could be reduced. RB James Mungro had two returns with a 19.5 average in a backup role last year. First round draft pick RB Joseph Addai occasionally returned kickoffs for LSU. Indianapolis signed undrafted WR Ashlan Davis who returned five kickoffs for TDs (an NCAA single season record) as a junior in 2004 at Tulsa. They also signed undrafted WR Gerran Walker who scored twice on kickoff returns during his career at Lehigh.

Punt Returners: T.J. Rushing; Jason David; Dan Sheldon; Terrence Wilkins; Gerran Walker

Although T.J. Rushingís strength is kickoff returns, the departure of Troy Walters leaves an opening on punt returns and Rushing could end up doing both. CB Jason David could also see an increased role. He had one return for no gain last year, and eight returns for a 6.3 average in 2004. As a rookie, WR Dan Sheldon spent last year on the Cardinals practice squad. His collegiate highlights at Northern Illinois include four career TDs on punt returns, and his punt return average during his sophomore year was the 5th best in NCAA history. Re-signed WR Terrence Wilkins returned some kickoffs and punts for the Colts back in 2003. He did both for Calgary in the CFL last year.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: RT Ryan Diem, RG Jake Scott, C Jeff Saturday, LG Ryan Lilja, LT Tarik Glenn
Key Backups: T Kurt Vollers, G Dylan Gandy, T/G Michael Toudouze (rookie), G/T Charlie Johnson (rookie)

Sometimes an offensive line can make the skilled position players perform better than they are while at other times the skill positions can mask weakness along the offensive line. This is a case of the latter. Peyton Manning is likely the smartest quarterback in the game today and his ability to read most NFL defenses helps the offensive line appear better than they are. One of the reasons they have done well can also be attributed to OL coach Howard Mudd who returns for his 9th season with the Colts. Tarik Glenn at left tackle and Jeff Saturday at center are clearly the best two linemen the team has. Glenn has good size and technique and is good at both run and pass blocking. Saturday is one of the better centers in the game today. The 31-year old is smart, athletic and in the prime of his career. Jake Scott is an undersized guard that is pretty good at pass protection but wonít blow defenders off the ball. He was a liability at times last season. At the other guard position is Ryan Lilja who is also undersized at only 285 pounds. His upside is limited and he is at best a serviceable starter. Finally the other tackle is Ryan Diem who would likely be better served as a guard. He is aggressive at the point of attack and has developed into a pretty decent player. Put all the parts together and this is only an average offensive line. However the scheme is good and having Manning behind center is a major plus for the unit.

Team Defense

The 2005 Indianapolis Colts finally became a Tony Dungy team with a vastly improved defense. They went from the 29th ranked team in total defense in 2004 to 11th last year. They were fifth in the league with sacks with 46. They led the league in forced fumbles with 23 and ninth in interceptions with 18. This is a defense that can make things happen. Linemen Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis each had 11 or more sacks. Freeney is the premier sack specialist in the NFL, forced six fumbles in 2005 and the heart of this defense. Mathis continues to surprise many with his propensity to make plays and has double-digit sack in each of the last two seasons. Corey Simon solidified the middle. Bob Sanders is young, hits like a linebacker and headlines an aggressive secondary. They've had some coverage problems in the secondary and the team is considering moving second year CB Marlin Jackson to safety. Their linebacking core is young and undersized but with great speed, which is exactly how Head Coach Tony Dungy likes it. They lack a bit in depth, though. The only loss for the defense has been LB David Thornton getting signed by division rival Tennessee. The Colts still play a version of the cover two defense. They play a 4-3 defense with a variety of bodies tossed out there from play to play. Ron Meeks remains their Defensive Coordinator.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Dwight Freeney, DT Raheem Brock, DT Montae Reagor, DE Robert Mathis
Backups: DT Corey Simon, DE Josh Thomas, DL Vincent Burns, DE Jonathan Welsh

Starting DL: DE Dwight Freeney is the foundation and heart of this defensive unit. One of the league's foremost sack artists, Freeney has double digit sacks in each of his four NFL seasons and had 11 last year. He also forces a lot of fumbles, including six last year. He was named to his third consecutive pro bowl last year. Few others match his closing burst on the QB. Robert Mathis has now put together terrific back-to-back seasons, but last year he was able to stay on the field a little more and added 50% more tackles from 2004. He also led the team with 11.5 sacks. Some suggest letting Mathis play more at LB, but he's been so effective as a pass rushing specialist, he'll likely remain as a DE. Regardless, the team is aware it needs to get Mathis on the field more often because he simply makes things happen. Raheem Brock is a solid, versatile lineman who has had productive back-to-back seasons. He often finds himself playing at DT in third and long situations and don't be surprised to see him playing there much more frequently this year. Brock is very quick and has 13 sacks in the last two seasons. Monte Reagor is a seasoned vet who has 10.5 sacks in the last two seasons and can play anywhere along the line. He's a consistent player and a team leader, but he rarely makes big plays and is a little prone to making mistakes. He has a good first step, though, which can sometimes make up for it.

Backup DL: Corey Simon proved to be a valuable addition to the Colts last season and helped solidify their line. Look for more improvement from Simon this year with a year under his belt in DC Ron Meeks' one-gap system. He also looks to be in better shape. He might not start with their move of Mathis to DE, but he'll see plenty of time. Vincent "Sweet Pea" Burns showed some promise last year in camp but was injured and missed the entire regular season. Expect Burns, who was drafted in the third round last year, to see significant playing time in 2006. He's quick and can penetrate inside. Jonathan Welsh is a tall, lanky DE with tremendous speed and ability to rush the passer. He was injured most of last season but the team believes he will contribute this year in nickel situations. Josh Burns is a physically imposing player who has looked good as a backup last year.

Linebackers

Starters: OLB Gilbert Gardner, OLB Cato June, MLB Gary Brackett
Backups: MLB Rob Morris, OLB Tyjuan Hagler, OLB Keyon Whiteside, OLB Freddy Keiaho

Starting LBs: After initially not re-signing MLB Rob Morris last year, the team took a chance on Gary Brackett, who had previously been mainly a special teams player. Brackett came through for the team and led them in tackles, displaying nice range and good instincts. He even was second on the squad in interceptions with three. The Colts responded by signing Brackett to a four-year contract. He's not the biggest LB and sometimes gets pushed around a little bit, but he makes the team better and is inked in as the starter this season. With David Thornton's departure, the team has a big need to fill and Gilbert Gardner should be given the first opportunity to replace Thornton. Gardner has shown glimmers of solid play but remains inexperienced and does not have good size. This will likely be a make or break year for Gardner, who has battled injuries throughout his career and never quite lived up to the expectations the team for him when he was drafted in the third round in 2004. Cato June proved to be a playmaker in this system and for the second season in a row had 100+ total tackles. He had five interceptions, all in the first six games, and returned two of them for a touchdown. Injuries slowed him a bit around midseason, but he still did good enough to land him in the pro bowl.

Backup LBs: Rob Morris was once the starting MLB for the Colts and even produced back-to-back 100 tackles seasons. He was demoted last year and played as a backup. He was re-signed again recently to play the same backup role in 2006. He excelled on special teams. Tyjuan Hagler missed his entire rookie season with a sports hernia injury, but has some upside and looks to play in the middle. He also has the ability to play on the outside because of his speed. He could play an integral role in 2006. Keyon Whiteside is another player who missed last season due to surgery and is hoping to rebound in an area of need for the team. Freddy Keiaho was drafted in the third round of this year's draft and the team believes he can step in a play a significant role. He fits the Colts mold perfectly, as a fast, undersized LB who hits hard.

Defensive Backs

Starters: SS Bob Sanders, FS Mike Doss, CB Nick Harper, CB Marlin Jackson
Backups: CB Jason David , S Gerome Sapp, CB Kelvin Hayden, CB Tim Jennings, S Matt Giordano

Starting DBs: Bob Sanders is a star on the rise and the most destructive hitter on the team. Although he is smallish, he hits like a linebacker. He had 91 total tackles last year. He was one of the main reasons the defense was so improved from the previous season. He's a difference maker on the field and could become even better in 2006. Mike Doss, while still a solid player, has become a liability in coverage. But he is not that far removed from the player who had over 100 total tackles as a rookie in 2003. Doss struggled a bit with a shoulder injury for part of the season, but still played well. The team is pondering whether or not to move Marlin Jackson to safety. He played CB last season and played well, but the team could use Jackson's coverage help at safety, where Doss and Sanders are lacking. If moved to safety, count on Doss losing his job. CB Nick Harper had arguably his best season as a pro, even though his tackle numbers have dwindled each of the last two seasons. Harper is not the fastest player and doesn't hit that hard, but he plays smart and is reliable. He's currently unhappy about his contract status and believes he should be getting more money.

Backup DBs: Jason David's number decreased slightly from his rookie season, but his play improved. He made fewer mistakes and will look to compete for the starting job in 2005 with Marlin Jackson. If Jackson moves to safety, David will start. Although undersized at 5'8" 172, David makes up for it with heart. Safety Gerome Sapp is also unproven and was acquired by the Colts after Baltimore let him go. Sapp proved to be a special teams star last year. Expect him to play a little more during games. Kelvin Hayden was a second round pick in last year's draft and played mostly on special teams. The team is hoping that Hayden picks up this year and believes he has upside. He's tough and hits hard, but lacks speed. Tim Jennings was signed in the second round this year. He's smallish but plays surprisingly big for his size and loves to help out in run support. The team is hopeful that Hayden and Jennings provide enough support in preseason that they can move Marlin Jackson to safety. Matt Giordano, a fourth round draft pick last year, is strictly backup fodder at this stage of his career.

Last modified: 2006-08-30 15:13:42



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